The No. 4 Michigan field hockey team was heavily favored in its first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament. But nobody could foresee how much the Wolverines would struggle in their first game with a home field advantage.
Ultimately, Michigan (14-5 overall) was upset by UAlbany (15-4) on Friday, losing 2-1 in a close overtime match during the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The loss stemmed from the Wolverines seemingly lacking in intensity and energy, especially during the first quarter.
The majority of the game was a tight battle between the two teams, with possession and offensive opportunities split evenly between them. But the first quarter was the exception. With Michigan seemingly caught off guard and unprepared, the Wolverines renewed effort against the Great Danes for the final three quarters wasn’t enough to overcome their slow start.
“I think we just have to come out with more fire when we’re in these NCAA games,” sophomore midfielder Abby Tamer said. “Our main thing is just trying to play with positivity as much as possible because when we’re frazzled, something like the first quarter tends to happen, where they’re down our throats the whole time.”
UAlbany put a lot of pressure on the Wolverines’ defense during the first 15 minutes of play. Their defense was unable to clear the ball past the fifty yard line, making for a tiresome quarter, ending in a 0-0 stalemate.
Despite having a slow start, Michigan came out with more fire in the second quarter. Tamer found multiple breakaway opportunities, which eventually led to corners and a penalty stroke for fifth-year midfielder Katherine Peterson. The shot was blocked, but there was an evident shift in the team’s morale and effort.
The Wolverines finally capitalized on their offensive progress with 30 seconds left in the half. On their third offensive corner, midfield graduate student Tina D’Anjolell was able to get a touch on Peterson’s initial shot and tipped the ball into the back of the net as time ran out.
The Wolverines went into halftime with rejuvenated energy, having scored just seconds before the buzzer sounded. As the third quarter commenced, it seemed as though they would add to their lead, as the team had four more corners and six shots on goal.
But Michigan was unable to capitalize on these opportunities, and UAlbany escaped the quarter unharmed. Their strong defense was once again to thank for keeping it a one score game, as was goalie Hannah Mangan, who had 8 saves.
After a small lull in the third quarter, the Great Danes brought new energy to the fourth, putting increased pressure on the Wolverines to keep their composure. UAlbany had four offensive corners in a row during the last 10 minutes of play, which took a toll on Michigan’s energy.
With fewer than three minutes left in the game, Michigan junior defender Rosie Hope was issued a yellow card, putting the Wolverines down a player for the remainder of the game. Soon after, the Great Danes were awarded another corner. This time, they were able to convert it into a goal. Sophomore midfielder Floor de Ruiter tipped in the initial shot, tying up the game.
With the score even and little time left to play, the frustration from Michigan’s bench was evident. They were unable to find another scoring opportunity before regulation ended, and the game went into overtime.
As the clock wound down, it seemed as though the sudden death overtime period would end without either team scoring, as both teams struggled to find a decent opportunity at the net.
However, in the final minute of the period, UAlbany forward Sophia Schoonmaker had a breakaway one-on-one with Michigan’s fifth-year goalie, Anna Spieker. She found an opening and sent the ball into the cage, ending the game — and with it, the Wolverines’ season.
“Albany deserves a lot of credit,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “They played great and they simply beat us today.”
As the Great Danes’ bench stormed the field to celebrate, the Wolverines remained frozen in shock, unable to fathom how they let the win slip away.
“The first thing we talked about when we came together as a team after the game was how much our seniors have built and shaped our program,” Tamer said. “Having them be gone next year is going to be tough, we’re going to do our very best to keep the program strong in their name.”
There’s reason to believe that they will. Right now, though, the loss still stings.